THE DI­REC­TOR’S CUT

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - Ashleigh Ste­wart in­ves­ti­gates

What do Mel Gib­son, Steven Sea­gal and Jean-Claude Van Damme have in com­mon? They’re all desperate to work with Omer Sarikaya. Or so the self-styled Turk­ish film­maker and phi­lan­thropist claims. There’s only one hole in his story: he hasn’t ac­tu­ally re­leased the movies he says he has.

Omer Sarikaya is a di­rec­tor. He is a phi­lan­thropist. He has connection­s with A-lis­ters in Tur­key and in Hol­ly­wood. At least, that is the life the 50-year-old from Tur­key has care­fully cre­ated for public con­sump­tion, us­ing op­por­tunis­tic so­cial me­dia posts and me­dia in­ter­views.

A pic­ture of him with Mel Gib­son at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val is used to an­nounce a new film they’re work­ing on to­gether and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing in­ter­view with Sarikaya in The Irish Sun waxes lyri­cal about Gib­son’s en­thu­si­asm for the project, de­spite fea­tur­ing no quotes from the ac­tor him­self.

Pic­tures of Sarikaya and 1990s ac­tion star Steve Sea­gal walk­ing out of an air­port in Bo­drum are plas­tered across Sarikaya’s so­cial me­dia chan­nels, as he an­nounces Sea­gal as his lat­est col­lab­o­ra­tor, to help bring the story of tragic Syr­ian tod­dler Alan Kurdi to cinema screens.

Ex­cept nei­ther Gib­son nor Sea­gal have ever been in­volved in any of Sarikaya’s films. As far as the ac­tors’ agents are con­cerned, the pic­tures were cir­cum­stan­tial; a fan meet­ing their idol. They’ve asked Sarikaya to stop as­so­ci­at­ing the im­ages with any of his projects.

Sarikaya’s lat­est film, Is­lam­o­Pho­bia, has 1990s ac­tion star JeanClaude Van Damme front and cen­tre on the movie poster. His in­volve­ment in the project has been trum­peted in ar­ti­cles pub­lished across the world. Ex­cept Van Damme him­self calls this “fake news”.

“This di­rec­tor must have fallen down and hit his head,” Van Damme tells

The Na­tional. “I’m busy for the next five years, so I’m not do­ing a movie with a Turk­ish di­rec­tor. This guy is talk­ing about me and Steven Sea­gal and maybe to­mor­row he will be talk­ing about the King of Thai­land. Who knows? So, fake news.”

Leonardo DiCaprio, Colin Far­rell, Saoirse Ro­nan and plenty more have also ap­peared in ar­ti­cles about com­ing Sarikaya projects. Yet they’ve also failed to ma­te­ri­alise in the sup­posed films them­selves.

If you were to con­sider his IMDb pro­file, Sarikaya has a long and var­ied back­ground in film – with about a dozen movies un­der his belt.

He claims to have made films that had their pre­mieres at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. His lat­est project, Ay­lan

Baby, is al­legedly set to tell the story of Kurdi, the Syr­ian tod­dler who be­came a sym­bol of Europe’s mi­gra­tion cri­sis in 2015 af­ter im­ages showed his life­less body washed up on a Turk­ish beach. Many of Sarikaya’s pro­duc­tion crews and ac­tors work for free, on the un­der­stand­ing that all pro­ceeds from the films are go­ing to char­ity.

It’s the same story he has told sev­eral me­dia out­lets, and pos­si­ble col­lab­o­ra­tors, for years. His IMDb ac­count would cer­tainly at­test to that: a smil­ing Sarikaya in a black tie, sur­rounded by cam­eras, on a film fes­ti­val red car­pet. Un­der that image is a se­ries of di­rect­ing, pro­duc­ing and writ­ing cred­its; a re­spectable ca­reer in the film in­dus­try?

Well, not quite. Be­cause the char­i­ties Sarikaya claims to be work­ing with have never re­ceived money from his movies, while one is even pub­licly dis­tanc­ing it­self from him. Many of his “projects” have been in pro­duc­tion for years, or are “fin­ished” films that have never been re­leased.

The Na­tional has spent sev­eral months speak­ing to dozens of cast and crew who have been in­volved in Sarikaya’s films, and some who have never heard of him, de­spite their names ap­pear­ing on cast lists.

“It be­came very, very clear to ev­ery­body that this was a sham,” Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Matt Tay­lor says of his in­volve­ment in Is­lamo-Pho­bia.

Sarikaya was born and raised in Bat­man, a small city of about 350,000 in the south-east­ern Ana­to­lia re­gion of Tur­key. It’s un­clear how he spent the first four decades of his life, as his fledg­ling IMDb pro­file seems only to have sur­faced in 2011, with ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer cred­its on small-scale Turk­ish projects and one act­ing credit in a short film.

But it wasn’t un­til 2012 that the charm of­fen­sive took off, when he started drum­ming up sup­port for his first big film project, Famine.

If you were to be­lieve the ar­ti­cles at the time, Famine seemed to be quite the project. In April 2012, Sarikaya told the Drogheda In­de­pen­dent and the

Hur­riyet Daily News that Irish di­rec­tor Mark Ma­hon would helm the ro­mance film, set amid the Irish Potato Famine, and none other than DiCaprio and Far­rell had been linked to roles.

But then, sev­eral months later, in an in­ter­view with NTV, Sarikaya said the film would be made by Ti­tanic di­rec­tor James Cameron.

So why was Ma­hon ousted from the job so abruptly? A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Ma­hon said Sarikaya had in­deed ap­proached them, but “he was never of­fi­cially at­tached”.

“Mark ter­mi­nated all com­mu­ni­ca­tions with him to pro­tect his own cred­i­bil­ity af­ter Mr Sarikaya of­fi­cially pub­lished sto­ries about Colin Far­rell and Leonardo DiCaprio be­ing linked to his project, which he was ad­vised by Mark at the time that he could not do.”

By July, Sean Bean and Ro­nan’s names had been prof­fered in in­ter­views given by Sarikaya. Around this time, Irish would-be film­maker Ai­dan Whe­lan was con­tacted by Sarikaya to con­sider an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer role for Famine. Sarikaya had ini­tially told Whe­lan the project had sup­port from Screen Ire­land, Ire­land’s film board, and was be­ing co-pro­duced with a recog­nised Irish pro­duc­tion com­pany. Sarikaya said that all prof­its from the film would go to char­ity.

“Af­ter an ini­tial re­view of the project, it was clear there was no film board sup­port,” Whe­lan says. “Upon fur­ther re­view re­gard­ing the project’s Unicef con­nec­tion, this was an un­true state­ment as there was no proof of rep­re­sen­ta­tion from Unicef. What was said about this project’s sta­tus was a lie.”

A 27-page pro­posal for the film, ob­tained by The Na­tional, out­lines Famine’s bud­get as €500,000 to €750,000 (Dh2 mil­lion to Dh3m), with an es­ti­mated world­wide gross of $190 mil­lion (Dh697.8m). Brand­ing for Unicef was used in the pro­posal, along­side sev­eral other char­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion of the UN, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion and the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Red Cross and Red Cres­cent So­ci­eties.

Scot­tish ac­tor Mike Mitchell, whose act­ing cred­its in­clude Gla­di­a­tor and the James Bond film Sky­fall, was also to star. When his role in Famine fell through, Mitchell says Sarikaya got in touch to of­fer him a role in Is­lam­o­Pho­bia. He was told none of the cast or crew would re­ceive pay­ment and all prof­its would go to char­ity.

Names such as Van Damme, Daniel Bald­win and Chris Mulkey were bandied around and plas­tered on pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial. The shoot got off to a rocky start.

“I did see many crew up­set as they had been promised pay­ment of some kind, I saw more than one heated ar­gu­ment … I did find it hard to be­lieve that some of the A-lis­ters whose names were be­ing bandied around would work for free,” Mitchell says.

“My feel­ing was, I had agreed to work free and as long as I be­lieved ev­ery­one was in the same boat I would go along with it.”

Work­ing on the film turned out to be “very hard work to say the least”. “It turned out not to be low bud­get but no bud­get, I had to im­pro­vise and write my own words in any scene I played in,” he says.

And the big names never turned up, ei­ther. They were al­ways “ar­riv­ing to­mor­row”.

Other ac­tors and crew con­tacted by The Na­tional had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences. Span­ish ac­tor Je­sus Sans, who most re­cently played Ma­hatma Gandhi in Mur­der of Gandhi, met Sarikaya by chance at the Euro­pean Film Mar­ket in Ber­lin last year, af­ter turn­ing down a role in Famine.

Sarikaya asked to take a selfie with him and Sans obliged. “A friend called me and told me to check Face­book,” Sans says. “Omer had posted the pic­ture say­ing I had con­firmed to come on as ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of Is­lam­o­Pho­bia. But we never even talked about that.”

In a sur­prise twist, Sans says he even­tu­ally re­lented to be­ing part of the film as the char­i­ta­ble cause was ap­peal­ing to him.

The shoot was a dis­as­ter, he says. “Omer was not qual­i­fied but he was able to con­vince peo­ple. I was pay­ing for things for him, try­ing to sup­port him,” he says. “Pay­ing five times for ho­tels, giv­ing him money – one time I gave him money for his teeth. He wanted to go to the den­tist but said he had no money.”

And then there are those who were never in­volved to be­gin with. Ital­ian ac­tress Is­abelle Adri­ani was listed on the web­site for Is­lamo-Pho­bia. Her rep­re­sen­ta­tive said she was never ap­proached, nor in­volved. “We tried to erase Is­abelle’s name from web­sites, but it didn’t al­ways work.”

Pe­ru­vian ac­tress Mar­i­ann Gavelo is listed on Famine’s IMDb page. Her agent said Sarikaya “at­tached one of my clients to a film I knew noth­ing of”.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for English ac­tor and for­mer boxer Gary Stretch, who was listed on the IMDb pro­file for Famine, also said he was un­aware of the project. “I don’t know who he is and he has never spo­ken to me or my client’s agent.”

It was May 2017 when Sarikaya ap­proached Is­tan­bul busi­ness­man Harun Sevimli to in­vest in the Is­lam­o­Pho­bia project. Sevimli was asked to come on board as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and pour $50,000 to $100,000 into the project. That fig­ure quickly bal­looned.

“He was throw­ing names all over the place – Mel Gib­son and Robert De Niro and who knows who else,” Sevimli says. “He said ‘I just need money’. I asked for col­lat­eral and what I was get­ting out of it. He said I’ll get all the rights, 50 per cent of the prof­its, and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer cred­its.”

Sevimli says he bought the nam­ing rights to the movie and in­vested $200,000 in about Au­gust 2017. Im­ages pro­vided by Sevimli show him, Sarikaya and some of the cast and crew meet­ing at govern­ment of­fices in An­talya. Other pho­tos show cast and crew pre-shoot, smil­ing and re­laxed. Van Damme and Bald­win are nowhere to be seen.

“He didn’t have any money, not even bus or taxi money,” Sevimli says. “He said the prince of Dubai was go­ing to fly in. He lied. He thinks all the money will come from Dubai.”

Sevimli was in An­talya for three weeks as he says Sarikaya “scram­bled” to get the film off the ground. Eight days of shoot­ing took place. But Sevimli was mor­ti­fied at the qual­ity of what was be­ing made.

“Then I said enough was enough, I took the mas­ters and we asked him to let it go and he will still get the credit,” he says. “But let some­one with ex­pe­ri­ence fin­ish it. He didn’t lis­ten.”

Sevimli packed up and left soon af­ter­wards. “I said if my name is af­fil­i­ated with it ever again I will sue.”

He re­counts sev­eral in­stances in which crew were promised salaries but were never paid: a make-up artist from Italy who had worked with Cirque du Soleil, an el­derly man who served as head of pho­tog­ra­phy.

“The make-up artist came to me cry­ing be­cause she needed a flight home. I paid it,” Sevimli says. “Omer had told ev­ery­one I was a bil­lion­aire or some­thing and that I would pay ev­ery­thing.”

Sevimli has since tried to launch le­gal ac­tion against Sarikaya.

“He ruined my life. This guy re­ally ruined my brain. How could he play with these peo­ple’s lives?”

But Sarikaya had al­ready moved on to Ger­many and found an­other in­vestor. Aliek­ber Yildiz, owner of the coun­try’s Star Acad­emy, also claims to be the owner of Is­lamo-Pho­bia and says he signed a con­tract with Sarikaya last year. He says he paid about €280,000 to pro­duce the film – €150,000 for the rights, €60,000 in spon­sor­ship, more than €40,000 in post-pro­duc­tion costs and €30,000 to clear Sarikaya’s per­sonal debts. Nei­ther Yildiz, nor Sevimli, were aware of each other un­til The Na­tional spoke to them.

When The Na­tional spoke to Sarikaya about the two sup­posed own­ers, he said they were both “ly­ing”. He said the rea­son the shoot moved from Tur­key to Ger­many was that they had “some prob­lems with spon­sor­ship” and a “visa cri­sis” with Bald­win, and “some other B and C-list ac­tors couldn’t come”.

But Sarikaya says nei­ther Sevimli nor Star Acad­emy now own the film. That right be­longs to a Turk­ish busi­ness­man named Zeki Bayirli, who also pur­chased the rights last year. Bayirli said it was his first foray into the film in­dus­try; un­til then, he had been a ho­tel and su­per­mar­ket owner.

The fi­nal step in Is­lamo-Pho­bia’s film­ing process seems to have taken place in the US. That was when Tay­lor and pro­ducer Erik Spurgin met Sarikaya.

Tay­lor rep­re­sents Ja­panese ac­tress Ikumi Yoshi­matsu, who Sarikaya had sought out for nu­mer­ous roles. “He started call­ing, in­quir­ing about her be­ing in a film project in 2013,” Tay­lor says. “Over the years he would call to tell me he had Mel Gib­son and Daniel Bald­win and all these big spon­sors. He said the prof­its would go to Unicef and the UN was go­ing to spon­sor stuff. We thought ‘wow, here’s an am­bi­tious di­rec­tor from Tur­key want­ing to go against the tide of Is­lam­o­pho­bia’, so it was some­thing we wanted to sup­port.

“A year ago he showed up say­ing he had fin­ished Is­lamo-Pho­bia and that he wanted to shoot a few scenes with Chris Mulkey. He said he had an in­vestor in Dubai and [an­other pro­ducer] was fi­nanc­ing ev­ery­thing.”

Tay­lor, who once rep­re­sented Sea­gal, ad­mits that Sarikaya had them all “hook, line and sinker”.

Spurgin had seen the ad­ver­tise­ment for the film on IMDb and reached out to Sarikaya to “ex­press in­ter­est”. “We had a quick phone call and I thought it was worth a bit of in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The level of in­vest­ment was rel­a­tively low. He needed help to get to LA to film some pick-up shots,” Spurgin says.

In terms of in­vest­ment, Spurgin says he gave about $10,000, but did not pay Sarikaya di­rectly, in­stead of­fer­ing to cover things such as ac­com­mo­da­tion for the di­rec­tor and his en­tourage.

“He ar­rived with­out a credit card,” Spurgin says. “Then he was wax­ing po­etic about his vi­sion of what we were go­ing to do, but … I was ask­ing him all these ques­tions and he had no an­swers.”

Things came crash­ing down when Spurgin and Tay­lor went to film pickup shots with Sarikaya at a man­sion out­side LA. “Omer was sup­posed to be di­rect­ing but I quickly dis­cov­ered he had ab­so­lutely no clue and didn’t have even the ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of pho­tog­ra­phy or shoot­ing or any­thing else. It be­came very, very clear to ev­ery­body that this was a sham,” Tay­lor says.

“We then backed him into a cor­ner and asked him to show us Is­lam­o­Pho­bia. We sat in a room watch­ing this grossly dif­fi­cult to watch mix

He ruined my life. This guy re­ally ruined my brain. How could he play with these peo­ple’s lives? HARUN SEVIMLI Is­tan­bul busi­ness­man

of ran­dom scenes. We had all been played. The in­vestor im­me­di­ately checked out of the ho­tel and left.”

Spurgin felt similarly about the film. “It’s 150 min­utes – and this isn’t

Avengers: Endgame. This was bru­tal,” he says. “The cin­e­matog­ra­phy was bad, the act­ing was bad, the light­ing was bad, the writ­ing was bad. I con­fronted Omer in the lobby of the ho­tel. We said we can’t en­dorse this film at all. There’s no way to save it.”

Mulkey later sent him a cease and de­sist let­ter, ask­ing him to stop us­ing his name in as­so­ci­a­tion with the film. Tay­lor says Sarikaya de­parted the next day, leav­ing about $10,000 in un­paid bills. “Hol­ly­wood has sifted through most of its prob­lems in the last few years,” Tay­lor says. “But this type of in­di­vid­ual … I’ve never seen any­thing like it. He’s a con­man. It’s so brazen, almost like Catch Me If You Can.”

Spurgin is still listed on Is­lam­o­Pho­bia’s IMDb page and on the movie poster, de­spite re­peat­edly ask­ing Sarikaya to be re­moved.

The film has never been re­leased, de­spite it ini­tially be­ing listed as such on IMDb. The film was changed to “pre-pro­duc­tion” on the site on July 2 this year, af­ter The Na­tional con­tacted Sarikaya.

Sarikaya has widely claimed the film had its pre­miere at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. How­ever, that’s not ex­actly true. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Cannes said the film screened as part of the Marche du Film, an in­dus­try event at Cannes where pro­duc­ers pay to put on screen­ings of films they are try­ing to sell to distrib­u­tors across the world. Any­one can show films at the mar­ket.

When con­tacted a sec­ond time to clear up these chronolo­gies, Sarikaya said it was all sim­ply “a mis­un­der­stand­ing” and the film had never been re­leased. When we asked Sarikaya which char­ity would re­ceive the prof­its from Ay­lan Baby, he said “100 per cent Unicef”. He in­sisted he told the chil­dren’s fund about his in­ten­tions and that it was “very happy with that”.

But Unicef has warned Sarikaya against claim­ing to be af­fil­i­ated with the fund. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the or­gan­i­sa­tion said: “Unicef does not per­mit any use of our name, brand and logo, as well as fund-rais­ing on our be­half, with­out per­mis­sion.

“Our records in­di­cate that the in­di­vid­ual con­cerned had reached out to the Turk­ish Na­tional Com­mit­tee for Unicef twice to ini­ti­ate a fund-rais­ing part­ner­ship and was clearly in­formed by the Com­mit­tee that he was not per­mit­ted to use Unicef’s name and logo in re­la­tion to the pro­mo­tion of the film.”

And de­spite the fact he’s re­ferred to “The In­ter­na­tional Red Cross and Red Cres­cent” in mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial and in­ter­views for Famine, it seems they would be un­know­ing re­cip­i­ents of the film’s prof­its, too. Mostly be­cause The In­ter­na­tional Red Cross and Red Cres­cent doesn’t ex­ist. There are, how­ever, Red Cross and Red Cres­cent so­ci­eties, as well as the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Red Cross and Red Cres­cent So­ci­eties.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the char­i­ties told us that Sarikaya was not be­lieved to have been in touch with them, nor was there a fund-rais­ing agree­ment in place with ei­ther char­ity. The UN­HCR, the UN refugee agency, also said they were un­aware of the di­rec­tor.

Late last year, Sarikaya tried to get

Famine off the ground again. He did so with a photo of him and Gib­son, arms around each other, on the red car­pet at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val in 2016. To the unini­ti­ated, it could in­deed look like two peo­ple who had just signed up to work to­gether, as Sarikaya claimed it to be in an in­ter­view with The Irish Sun.

“Mel thinks the topic of the story is amaz­ing,” he said. “He loves Irish peo­ple and the coun­try.”

But in re­al­ity, things were quite dif­fer­ent. Movie pro­ducer Gina Destito ran into Sarikaya at Venice that year. “He had two tick­ets to Hack­saw Ridge and took me along. Mel Gib­son was there pro­mot­ing it. He saw Mel Gib­son on the red car­pet and got a photo with him.”

That image then formed the foun­da­tion of Sarikaya’s story of a bur­geon­ing work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the ac­tion star. When The Na­tional con­tacted Gib­son’s pub­li­cist, Alan Nierob, he said he had never heard of Sarikaya, and that nei­ther he nor

Gib­son were ever at­tached to the project. “I don’t know any­thing about it,” Nierob said.

Sarikaya sug­gested we might have spo­ken to the wrong agent. “I spoke with Mel Gib­son, I met him at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val and he liked the idea. He wanted to be in it. There are thou­sands of peo­ple in LA, thou­sands think they are Mel Gib­son’s agent.”

Sarikaya’s lat­est film, Ay­lan Baby, has been pro­moted similarly. Sarikaya has shared pic­tures on so­cial me­dia of both him and Sea­gal in Tur­key and in­ter­na­tional news ar­ti­cles trum­peted Sea­gal’s in­volve­ment.

But Sea­gal’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Dan Delts, says the ac­tor was in Is­tan­bul for hu­man­i­tar­ian pur­poses and has no plans to make any movie in Tur­key, nor a movie with Sarikaya and “ab­so­lutely no movie re­gard­ing Ay­lan Baby now or in the fu­ture”.

“Steven was in­vited to Tur­key by other as­so­ciates and as is clearly ob­vi­ous in those pic­tures, Steven was sur­rounded by mul­ti­ple peo­ple. Omer was with the wel­com­ing party, but that is where his re­la­tion­ship with Sea­gal ends,” Delts says.

How­ever, Ay­lan Baby’s pro­ducer, George Edde, claims to have been in Dubai this year with Sea­gal drum­ming up sup­port.

Edde later told The Na­tional he was with Sea­gal in Dubai “two days ago” for “hu­man­i­tar­ian pur­poses” re­lated to the film.

Which brings us back to Ay­lan Baby. Scot­tish ac­tor Mitchell was ini­tially on set for the film this year, hav­ing been promised scenes with Sea­gal.

“Again no money, as all prof­its were go­ing to char­ity,” Mitchell says. “But it be­came clear I didn’t have a role within the script and the scene I shot had no mean­ing to me what­so­ever. Where is Sea­gal [I asked]? He said he is com­ing to­mor­row … so, much to Omer’s sur­prise, we just left.”

When asked about the premise of Ay­lan Baby, Sarikaya ini­tially told

The Na­tional that the movie was not about Kurdi, but was about sto­ries of refugees from “around the world”. He said the name “Ay­lan” was sim­ply a generic name.

How­ever, the one-minute long trailer for Ay­lan Baby uses the heart­break­ing footage of Kurdi’s body, face down on a beach, which in 2015 sparked a deep emo­tional re­ac­tion in Europe. An ac­com­pa­ny­ing cap­tion reads: “Three years ago on 2 Septem­ber 2015, three-year-old Ay­lan Baby drowned cross­ing the Aegean Sea along with his five-year-old brother and mother.”

The trailer ends with an en­larged pic­ture of Kurdi’s life­less body, su­per­im­posed over a pic­ture of a meet­ing of the UN.

When news of the film broke in late June, fam­ily mem­bers sharply de­nounced it. Tima Kurdi, an aunt of Alan Kurdi, told the CBC net­work it was “un­ac­cept­able”. Sarikaya was un­per­turbed, telling us Tima Kurdi’s com­ments were “strange”, and that he was now good friends with Alan’s fa­ther. This was a “to­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing”, he said.

When asked where the prof­its from this film would go, he said: “Just for hu­man­i­tar­ian aid”, but could not name a char­ity. In­stead, he said: “This film is go­ing to be twice as im­pact­ful as Ti­tanic.”

It might seem like a bold call, but Sarikaya has used this line to pro­mote sev­eral of his film projects over the years.

He likened Famine to Ti­tanic in

2012 in the Drogheda In­de­pen­dent and again six days later in the Hur­riyet Daily News, as well as in 2015 with The Irish Post and Aramco World.

When asked why he made movies for seem­ingly no re­lease and no profit, he said: “It’s my job, it’s my way and it’s my things … ev­ery­body’s happy with that, ev­ery­body loves me.”

The Na­tional has ob­tained a copy of Is­lamo-Pho­bia. Van Damme does not ap­pear in the movie. Nor does Mulkey. It’s a tough two-and-a-halfhour watch.

When asked whether he was proud of the film, Sarikaya was adamant that he was. He said it sim­ply needed to have 10 min­utes cut from it so it could meet in­dus­try reg­u­la­tions.

Sarikaya then sums up his work in a few short sen­tences. “I am a shep­herd,” he says. “I look af­ter the sheep. I didn’t study or any­thing. Ev­ery­one who teaches me – I don’t lis­ten. I do things my way.”

The cin­e­matog­ra­phy was bad, the act­ing was bad, the writ­ing was bad. We said we can’t en­dorse this film at all ERIK SPURGIN Film pro­ducer

Omer Sarikaya

Omer Sarikaya posted pic­tures on­line of him and Steven Sea­gal to­gether in Is­tan­bul but the ac­tion star’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive de­nies the pair are work­ing on a project to­gether

Omer Sarikaya

Omer Sarikaya met Mel Gib­son at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val in 2016, above, tak­ing a pic­ture with the ac­tor, right, and us­ing it as proof they teamed up

Harun Sevimli; Erik Spurgin

Above, ac­tor Mike Mitchell, far right, with cast and crew of ‘Is­lamo-Pho­bia’; right, ac­tor Pierre Du­lat, left, with Sarikaya

Erik Spurgin

Above, Sarikaya is joined by a Turk­ish cin­e­matog­ra­pher as they take a closer look at a shoot­ing lo­ca­tion in Cal­i­for­nia

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